White Christmas Chances
What exactly is a “White Christmas”? Does snow have to fall and stick on Christmas Day? Does old snow count if the ground is white? Does Bing Crosby have to be singing? In 2009, we had a foot of leftover slop on the ground and freezing rain all day. Does that count as a White Christmas? Be careful what you wish for.
Wikipedia, the source of all truth in the world, declares that a White Christmas is “the presence of snow, either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.” Wikipedia also says that the Bing Crosby standard, written by Irving Berlin, is the best-selling single in the history of the world.
Although a snow at Christmas is relatively rare here in Virginia, it is extremely rare in the Southern Hemisphere where it is summer. But Antarctica is always cold and white and the high mountains of the Andes and the South Island of New Zealand can also be snowy.
The clear winner for the greatest White Christmas ever here was in 1969, when 16 inches of fresh snow fell. Other than that, the historical record is pretty bleak. Some accumulation fell in 1914, 1938, 1948, 1975, 1993, and most recently, a half inch in 2010. Overall, there is about a 15% chance of white ground on Christmas Day.
Substantial Christmas Eve snows of half a foot fell in 1966 and 1962. If you are between 55 and 65 years old, you probably remember that Christmas was snowy as a kid. That’s just luck, though. Snowfall hasn’t decreased here, we just keep getting skunked at Christmas in recent years.
As for the Christmas of 2009, that will always be the worst White Christmas ever. Two feet of snow fell the week before Christmas and eight inches remained on Christmas morning. The big day dawned with heavy rain and temperatures in the 20s. Rain lasted all day and we eventually got up to 42 late in the day. Different people like different kinds of weather, but not even the Grinch could stand that.
Persistent, annoying rain continued again in November marking the seventh straight month with above normal rainfall. Almost 8 inches fell, which ranked third on the all-time list. The November record was in 1985, when Tropical Storm Juan parked over Virginia and we ended up with a foot of rain.
To add insult to injury, November was cold, a full four degrees below normal. Minor freezing rain fell twice and actually closed school on the 15th. That was the fourth time in the past year when school was cancelled for weather without a single snowflake.